Thanks for coming back to learn more about how DME Forensics started! If you haven't already, I'd recommend reading my previous post ("Growth in a Small Forensics Company - The Beginning") to get caught up.
After leaving the FBI in late May 2013, Jason and I got right to work on setting up the lab. The easy part of this process was purchasing equipment and software, as well as developing standard operating procedures (SOPs). We knew how to do the work and what we needed to get up and running. Without a doubt, the most difficult part of setting up the lab was the business side. What should we charge for our services?
Jason and I were used to working in environments where we received a regular paycheck from a government agency for, essentially, helping people. Whether it was examining cases for our own agencies, or assisting other agencies, the lights in our homes would stay on from month to month simply for doing something we love. We didn't work for free, so to speak, but neither of us had been in it for the money, either. Despite our love for the work, working for free is not exactly a sustainable business model, so again, what should we charge for our services?
The simple, economics-based answer to that question is: whatever the market will bear. With that in mind, Jason and I still wanted to strike a balance between being able to help as many clients as possible while still keeping the lights on (metaphorical and actual). We wrestled with many different pricing structures, discounts, and other strategies before settling on a final plan. In short, we probably ended up under-charging in an effort to help people and expand our client base.
One interesting thing we learned: there is such a thing
as charging too little. I'm not referring to that in the sense that you can't afford to keep the business running (though that exists as well, obviously), but more in the sense that people are at times skeptical of your abilities compared to an alternative that costs more. This is a subconscious effect that exists in more than just the services industry. Think about the last time you went looking for an app for your iPhone or Android phone. You find two apps that appear to do the same thing. One is free and one costs $2.99. You may ultimately end up going with the free option, but I'd bet that you read a few more reviews and double checked that it did everything you needed as compared to the paid app.
Our first two cases consisted of recovering video from DVRs that had thus far been unable to be recovered through traditional means. We were successful in recovering the video in both cases by examining the data on the hard drives directly and then writing WinHex scripts to recover the data in a playable format. Despite being very different types of DVRs, these cases shared quite a few similarities in how we ultimately ended up carving the data out in a playable using the scripts. In an effort to work smarter, not harder, we began to develop a bit of a library of scripts (or portions of scripts) that we could reuse in future situations. Those scripts ultimately became the beginning of a product that you know today as DVR Examiner.
There is of course, more to come on that. In the next post, we'll discuss how we began to develop DVR Examiner and made the decision to hire our first employee - a big step for any young company. Stay tuned!